NEW YORK -- The question for New York Rangers forward Rick Nash was about the club's center depth in general. Nash's answer turned into a plug for the continued improvement of rookie center Kevin Hayes.
"Hayes has impressed me," Nash said. "You think about how mature his game is; he's been playing at a high-level of college for a while and what is he, 22? It's impressive the maturity in his game, especially to go up against a guy like [Joe] Thornton and hold his own."
Hayes has impressed a lot of people around the Rangers this season. He has become as important to the Rangers' success as any other role player.
Hayes was plugged in as the third-line center in his second NHL game. He has been stable in that position since, giving the Rangers the center depth a team needs to have sustained success in an NHL season.
His next test comes Sunday at Consol Energy Center against the Pittsburgh Penguins (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN), who roll out a 1-2-3 center rotation that is the envy of the League: Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Brandon Sutter.